Why are combat drones gaining popularity in India?

combat drones

Combat Drones

The combat drones are also known as the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles or UCAV and these are a deadlier and more advanced version of the startup drones or the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. These UCAVs are generally armed with aircraft armament such as missiles. As their names suggest, UCAV are unmanned. Today it is understood that only a few countries have these UCAVs and India is possibly one such country.

India and the UCAVs

The Defense Research Development Organization or DRDO has recently embarked on a combined UCAV project called Ghatak with the technical collaboration with Aeronautical Development Agency or ADA. According to the Times of India, India is developing this new generation of combat drones. So why is India interested in these sophisticated UCAVs? The project Ghatak, it is understood, is awaiting approval and its costing is pegged at approximately 2,650 crore Rupees. If we talk only about UAV imports, India seems to have imported “22.5% of the world’s UAVs between 1985 and 2014” this places India as the top importer of UAVs. However, the subject is the UCAV and India’s reasons for possessing these.

The Use of UCAVs by India

The need of UCAVs by India is quite obvious. Ever since India gained its independence, it has had endless problems created by Pakistan from across the western border. Especially of late there have been several incursions in the Kashmir area in what is called the Pakistan occupied Kashmir region. After several terrorist attacks sponsored by Pakistan India decided that it was time to teach its enemy a lesson. This gave birth to what was later known as Surgical Strike. This operation was carried out with the help of Heron drones by the IAF. These drones took excellent pictures during a starry night; of the enemy’s launch pads located inside Pakistan occupied Kashmir. It was from these pads that terrorists trained by Pakistan had struck at India killing about eighteen Indian soldiers. The Heron drones were used to help the Indian Army plan its offensive surgical strikes which were launched on the nights of 29/30 September 2016. During these strikes Indian commandos were successful in avenging the death of their brave colleagues.

India learnt a great lesson. It learnt that covert strikes using the armed drone are much safer when compared to the overt surgical strikes. However, since India did not possess UCAVs this option was denied. Today the UCAV has revolutionized warfare. These not only provide valuable intelligence but they also help launch covert strikes using missiles at the target area from large distances away.

Utilization of the UCAVs

India, hemmed in as it is on its two sides by two enemies, Pakistan and China, needs drones in order to ensure that its borders are safe at all times. Drones such as the Heron can not only carry out surveillance missions, they can also take excellent photos deep inside the enemy’s territory. These will therefore always be of great use for India both during defensive and offensive missions. However, in order to go one step further, that is, to launch deep strike missions, the only available weapon is the UCAV that also permits total safety to the armed forces since these platforms are unmanned. The available UAVs are currently being used by the IAF in launching Strategic Recce missions while the IN currently uses its UAVs for enhancing the maritime security of India’s vast coastline. The Army, on the other hand, uses its drones to enable its infantry for obtaining live photos of the operational area.

Today, it is understood that India’s DRDO is engaged in the design and production of the Rustom, an armed drone. It is also believed that the Rustom will be used to launch the Helina Anti-tank guided missile or the ATGM. While Israel and the USA have already shown their willingness to work with India in its Make in India programme for the development of UAVs, so far there have been no positive results indicating India’s success in acquiring UCAVs in significant numbers. While the USA claims to have exterminated around 3000 terrorists with the help of the UCAV, the international norms for controlling exports have so far prevented India from acquiring these deadly munitions. However, now that India has been included in the Missile Technology Control Regime or MTCR, it is hoped that it will be able to acquire the UCAVs. Currently, India is going to receive the Predator-XP version drones which do not have weapon stations. However, the IAF is keener to acquire the armed variant Predator MQ-1. This may not happen just any time soon.

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